Students utilize coloring books to express themselves and help relieve stress

Lillie Hoffart, design coach

After a long day filled with lectures, quizzes and theatre rehearsal, sophomore Maggie Galloway needs time to relax and unwind. She gathers some pens, pulls a book off her shelf, flips to a fresh page and begins to fill the picture in with color.

Coloring book sales have increased in recent years, which can be attributed to publishings of complex coloring books for adults. According to a ranking from fortune.com, five of the 10 top-selling books on Amazon were these adult coloring books. Drawing in coloring books can benefit the artist, reasons why many people have chosen to take coloring up as a new hobby.

Galloway had colored as a child, but stopped during middle school. However, once she entered high school, she began anew. She owns dozens of coloring books, ranging from adult coloring books with complex patterns and details to character books filled with Ninja Turtles and Littlest Pet Shop creatures. Now Galloway has worked this new activity into her daily routine.

“I transferred from West, and I did not have a good experience when high school started,” Galloway said. “I think that doing that really helped me relax.”

Galloway will often color while watching Netflix after school, using the time to unwind.

“I think what it does is it takes us back to a time when life was simpler and when coloring was an activity we could do without any difficulties or problems or stresses,” school psychologist Cathy Kerr said. “Coloring involves both your hands and your mind in neutralness and in doing something pleasant. I think that sometimes  it helps us get a hold on our stress.”

Kerr provides coloring activities in her office as stress-relievers for students. She has multiple coloring books and also a large strip of black and white patterned fabric. An embroidery hoop is fitted onto the fabric and students are encouraged to work on the material with fabric markers.

“When we began I started [the fabric] with a solid here,” Kerr said. “Then people started breaking it up and doing patterns and different things within those, so now it’s interesting to look at the collective work.”

Kerr invites anyone to come and work on the fabric and add their own designs.

Although coloring and drawing have similar aspects, the two types of art have created different aesthetics.

Like Galloway, senior Grant Thompson had colored often when he was younger. Although he had always enjoyed it, he colored less frequently after elementary school. Recently he picked the hobby back up and now owns four coloring books; his favorite is filled with pictures of different cities and types of architecture. He also draws, but sees coloring as a calming pastime and drawing as an art form that requires more concentration.

“Drawing something, people use more of their creative side.” Thompson said. “I think sometimes people think more about small details [when drawing] as compared with a coloring book where they are filling in what is already there. I also think its is relaxing for someone to sit down and color something that doesn’t have to be perfect but they can still have fun with it.”

Kerr said the difference in atmosphere between these two activities is due to the concentration that is involved. The ease of coloring makes it a good stress-relief method.

“When we are talking about stress, sometimes freehand drawing is harder because it takes more planning,” Kerr said. “If you are really stressed and can’t think really well, then picking up a colored pencil and starting to color is something that is a little more automatic. Part of dealing with anxiety and stress is keeping your hands and your mind busy and so coloring really does that. But freehand drawing you have to make a lot of decisions and if you are really, really stressed out, making those decisions are too hard at that moment.”

From stressful moments to everyday events, coloring can be used to set a more tranquil tone.

“[Coloring is] peaceful,” Galloway said. “I think it is my way to cope with everything that is going on.”

Kerr said one of her friends discovered  coloring as a new method of meditation. Her friend had been trying traditional forms of meditation but was having issues clearing her mind. Coloring proved to be a more effective way to relax and now is built into her meditation time.

“I think we are all looking for ways to handle stress and anxiety and manage our lives and we all need lots of tools,” Kerr said. “I would tell people ‘you know what, give it a shot. It might work great for you, it might not, and if it does, you just added a great tool that is cheap, it’s portable, and you can do it any place, anywhere.’”